Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

The Hero Will Be Missed.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In these solemn hours and days in our country—we still hope, work and believe that bright burnished days will be our future—the examples of true heroic men and women of strong moral courage and good moral character who are true public servants who love their country, have sacrificed tremendously for it and with all their hearts, minds, bodies and souls have made their country better by doing what is right by exemplifying heroism at critical times in our nation’s history, are desperately needed more than ever today.

There are many types of heroes. Some inspire us by their persistence and determination by honoring the highest principles of faith and freedom. Others lift us by their willingness to stand firm in their convictions despite fierce and unforgiving opposition; still others commit themselves to working for the greater good of all without regard to race, creed, gender, religion, ethnicity, gender orientation or any other so called social qualifiers used to punish and exclude persons from their full rights and freedoms and equal protection under the law as citizens of this nation.

Still others are known for their roads less taken, the divine sparks of humanity and compassion, wisdom and the countless charitable ways they utilize the tools of wealth and other gifts to lift people in need.

Then there are the great souls who “set at liberty those who are oppressed,” bind the wounds of suffering, feed the hungry, utter prayers for the needy and show justice and mercy for all people thus elevating and exemplifying the better angels of our nature for the betterment of all humanity.

The hero is one who “saves” the day or hour at any given time in a nation’s history or turns the tides of peril and hopelessness to a brighter day in their own personal lives or in the lives of the communities they are called to live and serve.

Heroes add value, comfort and stability by what they say and do often risking the scorn and ridicule of their peers, followers or the general public. Their profiles in courage often demand something truly extraordinary from them in ordinary or extraordinary times, when stale and pedestrian norms take root and the power of debilitating group think and convention holds sway.

Heroes risk something; often themselves by defying customs, exceeding expectations and by taking not the easy course but the higher way which is always difficult, arduous and often times  impossible. They will risk both scaffold and scorn for greater causes by friend and foe alike.

No hero can please all the people all the time. Heroes are human. They make mistakes. They may hold views or take positions which annoy or vex people. The hero archetypes in our society, often dismiss or devalue persons because of their flaws, as if their shortcomings disqualify them from being true heroes, but it is precisely a man or woman’s redemptive capacity to win the day and overcome mostly themselves and their own personal defects to serve a greater good and to triumph boldly in the arena of life and struggle which ultimately make a positive, decisive difference and reveal who they really are as true persons of character and value in a world which readily diminishes those traits.

“One man’s conscience is a thousand men,” says Shakespeare

In her book Awakening the Heroes Within, Carol Pearson reminds us that “The real battle is always against the enemies within–sloth, cynicism, despair, irresponsibility, denial. The courage to confront the inner dragons is what ultimately allows us to confront the outer dragons with wisdom, self, discipline and skill.”

I think of the Apostle Paul who referred to a thorn in his flesh with which he struggled much of his adult life. Was it a physical debilitation such as spinal kyphosis, a typical malady of carpenters, tent makers and other tradesmen of the time who worked long hours in bent over positions and developed a spinal curvature condition exacerbated by calcium deficient diets where such laborers were often in such excruciating pain especially during their working day and wakeful hours?

Was it some other character flaw he possessed that followed him all the days of his ministry–a weakness which became his strength– but did not thwart his efforts to build new churches, lift tired souls yearning to be free and become a co-founder of the Christian religion? “The things I should do I don’t do. The things I should not do, I do.” Saul the murderer and instigator of the Jesus Movement became Paul the chief architect and missionary of the new movement known as the Way.

Such persons are few and far in the annals of human history, but those who have walked the way of heroes know the meaning and power of redemptive suffering because of personal thorns and the power of God’s amazing grace.

Senator John McClain had his thorns; he was a conservative who held strong beliefs which put him at odds with progressives by voting against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr; something for which he later apologized.

In recent years, and despite his chastisements of President Donald Trump, he voted in support of most of Donald Trump’s legislation mostly notably the recent tax break for the wealthy.

There are other policies he supported and statements he made over the years which may prevent many from seeing him as true hero. Some would outright disagree with conferring on him the title hero. In their thinking, he does not deserve such recognition because of what he stood for and voted on and what he believed in.

Others would agree that in a world where it is often most difficult for human beings to confess their own sins publicly or privately in any form or fashion, and in a world where it is especially exceptional for any politician to tell the truth about himself especially when lies, dissembling, denial and deception are so rampantly acceptable, it is indeed something quite remarkably heroic for a politician or public servant to confess his or her shortfalls or failings.

Senator John McCain was a hero who bore his stripes, possessed humility, confessed his shortcomings, loved God, family, and country and did not always go with the political flow but took roads less traveled. He was a fallible man with strength of character and purpose which fueled his respect for truth with a little “t” and big “T.”

Again says Pearson, “Heroism is also not just about finding a new truth, but about having the courage to act on that vision.”

The Senator from Arizona recognized truth as a living reality. He lived his own truth and had the courage to act on it by adapting to the limitations experienced from wounds suffered as a prisoner of war. He spoke truth to those in power even if it chagrined and irritated some of his closest political allies and associates.

In the current political climate of rancor, belligerence and bombast, who would dare have the nerve to even whisper the idea of choosing a vice presidential running mate from an opposing political party let alone speak that possibility openly in public?

Needed today are bipartisan solutions not one party dissolution which is killing politics in our country.

He was not afraid of truth, and in this age of “fake this”and “false that” simply acknowledging the truth of one’s own personal failings and its impact on the country in the public arena is sometimes good enough to win or save the day and can change the temperament, direction or spirit of a nation during difficult times.

Senator McClain’s heroic military service comes to mind as one exceptional example of his heroism. When shot down over Vietnam and taken prisoner of war, John McCain was humiliated and tortured but did not lose his soul or his courage and refused to go home upon his release without his fellow prisoners also being set free.

He knew the horrors of war and torture, openly spoke against it and never believed it a viable, reliable or a humane method for gleaning reliable information from prisoners of war . As a prisoner himself who was tortured, it would seem to me that McCain had first hand experience and knowledge about the value and efficacy of such information gathering methods and techniques.

And who can forget his willingness to politely correct a prospective supporter during his run for the presidency when she questioned Obama’s ethnicity, echoing the numerous falsehoods and slander spread about him by his political opponents. McCain resisted the woman’s attempts to swift boat Obama’s citizenship, his loyalty to America and his legitimacy as a presidential candidate by refusing to endorse her beliefs. McCain vouched for Obama’s character by essentially affirming the goodness of the man. He did not mind if what he said to the woman risked losing her vote. He was behind in the polls. He did not assent to what she heard, may have wanted to hear or believed to be true. He did not play to the political gallery by speaking lies and half truths to obtain her vote which to me is a true example of moral character and political integrity. He quietly spoke truth to her and was unafraid to go on record publicly for his personal beliefs about a political opponent who happened to be African-American with a different sounding name.

Such heroic acts may seem minuscule in the vast expanse of greater heroic feats and possibilities, but those small acts of heroism are important, especially in a culture of forced political silences and complicity which have large rippling effects in our nation when Americans were and still are itching for the real truth, which speaks volumes about McCain the man.

A man of true dignity and quiet audacity; he stood on his deepest convictions and refused to be bullied or demeaned by others for his views.

He was a maverick for sure; a man of great physical and moral courage who left his mark on America and the world.

Let me remind the reader that such qualities of heroism are not determined by a person’s race, or tribe or political party or economic station, ideology or pedigree of education, but are honed in the fires of struggle in developing a tenacious loyalty and character made free and strong, unyielding to the tyrannies of thought or deed which bind men’s actions, dull their nerves, kill their spirits and makes hostages of their very souls. Such heroism is not handed out to men and women on the basis of some dubious qualifications which are often claimed exclusively as birthrights and privileges of a certain group or type of people nor is it only confined to public life. There are countless untold, acts of heroism everyday by people whose names will never be known by the public.

Iron sharpens iron. Fire is the true test of gold and adversity of strong men and women.

Shakepeare says in Julius Caesar,  “Th’ abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.”

John McCain was a true hero who will be missed, who felt what he believed and believed what he felt; a shining example of what it means to be a true man” who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

The words of General of Bordeaux admiring Talbot in Shakespeare’s Henry VI is also helpful in describing in part the late Senator from Arizona:

“A breathing valiant man of an unconquered spirit.”

God rest his soul. God bless his family and God bless America!

His leadership will be missed at a time in our country when heroic leaders more than ever are sorely needed to move this nation through the present crises so that the fires of truth, freedom, justice and equality can boldly and bravely alight our future with brighter promises for better days to come for all Americans.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *